Son shares ‘Mother’s Art’ at Dover Public Library

“Mother’s Art: A Fine Selection of the Paintings and Artwork of Betty Reznak” showcases the work of the late Magnolia artist at the Dover Public Library. (Delaware State News photo by Marc Clery)

DOVER — “Mother’s Art: A Fine Selection of the Paintings and Artwork of Betty Reznak” is now on display at the Dover Public Library.

Born Aug. 5, 1924, Betty Reznak grew up on a farm in Portage, Pennsylvania to Hungarian immigrant parents and learned artsy skills like sewing, crocheting and knitting but her real passion would become painting.

“I’m her biggest fan and I don’t think anyone gave her enough credit,” said Mrs. Reznak’s son Richard, who coordinated the exhibit.

Mr. Reznak’s parents moved to Magnolia in 1974 and he came to Dover in 2012 to help his mother in her final years and made it his mission to preserve and share her work with the community.

“I want people to realize there are talented people among us,” he said. “And I think my mom is a great representation because she was a military wife, a mother, and you usually don’t think about the talents people may have and what they are really capable of.”

Mrs. Reznak passed away in 2014 but enjoyed sharing her art with family that included her four children and friends during her life.

“She’d always ask me what I wanted for Christmas or my birthday and I’d always ask for art,” he said.

In his younger years, Mr. Reznak and a friend saw a dilapidated crab boat in Port Mahon and talked of fixing it up, everything it would take to get the boat ready to sail again and what they would do once they were able to get her back into the water.

One day when he and his mother were in Bowers Beach and saw the old beached crab boat and he told the story of his vision for the boat, Mrs. Reznak took a photo of it and many years later gave him a painting of the boat for a Christmas gift.

“I couldn’t believe it. Something from so long ago that she’d been thinking about the whole time,” Mr. Reznak said. “It’s something so loving and so sentimental that only a mom would do it. And I guess for that reason, it’s probably my favorite piece.”

The crab boat painting is part of the exhibit and many of the other selections have come from gifts Mr. Reznak received throughout his life.

“These 15 are definitely favorites of mine and I think they also represent her work as a whole,” he said.

The paintings are mostly nature and landscape, inspired by her youth growing up on a rural farm in Pennsylvania and her life once she moved to Delaware.

Her main preference was acrylics but she enjoyed all mediums.

Mr. Reznak said Mrs. Reznak was a perfectionist when it came to her art and would work on a single piece in her studio for months at a time, constantly evaluating it and improving it under lights and a magnifying glass until all the details were just right.

She first began painting after taking a few art classes in Germany while stationed there with her husband Francis, an Air Force sergeant, and her passion grew as time went on and she kept learning, taking more classes once she returned to the U.S.

“There was a period of about 25 years when she was painting everything,” Mr. Reznak said. “Not just canvas — furniture, clocks, birdhouses, mirrors, you name it, she painted it.”

Although Mr. Reznak had always seen the value in his mother’s work, he thinks that not even she realized how talented she was until 2012 when Mr. Reznak took the initiative to have her work digitally saved so it would last forever.

“I took her work to New Mexico in 2012 to have it digitized so everything got taken out of its frame and scanned and photographed and the man doing it said, ‘Wow, this stuff is great.’”

The studio wrote Mrs. Reznak a letter complementing her and she was overjoyed.

“She said ‘Wow, no one has ever told me my work was any good,’” Mr. Reznak said.

“My father was a military man and not at all into artsy things but his true measure was the love and support he gave to my mother and her many talents.”

Mrs. Reznak loved painting and encouraged Richard to find a passion and follow it too.

“She just always wanted to support any dreams you had and she wanted to be a part of them,” Mr. Reznak said.

“I loved music growing up but of course my dad said ‘No, I don’t need you spending all your time learning how to play guitar,’ but he went to Taiwan and my mom bought me an electric guitar. Years later, he bought his own guitar and we jammed together.”

Mr. Reznak still plays guitar several times a week and every Sunday at church.

“She was happy and loving and you can tell that from her art,” Mr. Reznak said. “And I think that people will come to the exhibit and see these paintings and recognize that many were inspired by her time in Delaware.”

After receiving the letter in 2012, Richard and his mother decided it was time to share her work with the public and after Ms. Reznak passed away and Richard spent three years renovating her home, all the pieces came together to put on the exhibit at the Dover Public Library.

A reception for “Mother’s Art” will be held on Feb. 25 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the library at 35 E. Loockerman Plaza.

Since having the photos saved digitally, Mr. Reznak is able to produce prints of any of the photos on display. Some of the proceeds from the prints will go to the Dover Library Art Fund and the Humane Society to carry on Mrs. Reznak’s legacy of donating to the welfare of animals.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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